In truth, this blog should read, “Why does it take so long to prepare a book to self-publish?” but that long-tail keyword isn’t trending in Google. Thus, while the title reads “Why Does It Take So Long to Publish a Book?”, we are going to focus on the production end.
When self-publishing, it takes almost no time at all to make a book available online. Within hours of submitting your book files to Amazon KDP, your book will be duking it out with millions of other books in the Amazon marketplace. Similarly, books that are uploaded to the IngramSpark print-on-demand and eBook distribution platform are available to buyers within days. (Read about the difference between these two platforms.)
Thus, the length of time required to self-publish a book really depends upon the amount of time the book takes to prepare for publishing. And that amount of time depends on decisions that you—the author—take.
As an author, you must ask yourself:
- Is my manuscript ready for publication?
- How important is editing to me?
- How important is it that my book not “look” self-published?
- Is it critical that readers find my book easy to read?
- Do I care about sales?
These questions will help you clarify your goals and understand what type of services you require and who you should approach to provide those services.
Self-publishing service providers like 1106 Design provide the editing, book layout, typesetting and cover design services required to prepare and produce a book for publishing. We are not publishers; beware of any company that provides these services cheaply AND promises to publish your book.
Authors can contract with self-publishing service providers who are independent contractors or with a company like 1106 Design, where all services are provided under one roof. Either option is valid. If you know a good editor with excellent references, and they recommend a book designer with a good track record, you may have a workable publishing solution. The only catch is that you will need to manage the book production process yourself, while a full-service company typically provides project management services as well as personalized customer service and a dedicated service rep.
Speaking of timelines, when you approach a service provider, you should know your book launch date. Aim to have your book uploaded to IngramSpark and Amazon KDP a couple of weeks before the official launch. Doing so will give you time to add content to your Amazon book page and author page, and for the eBooks on IngramSpark to make their way onto the Walmart, Barnes & Noble and other retailer websites.
You should also be realistic about your timeline. Take promises of an incredibly quick turnaround to meet your demanding timeline with a grain of salt. Independent book designers, editors and proofreaders who need the work are more likely to make promises they might not be able to keep. Plan for delays by building a cushion into your timeline.
Preparing a book for publication includes the following steps:
- Design the book cover
- Design the interior page layout
- Edit the book
- Typeset the book
- Final revisions.
Each of the above steps can take between two and three weeks; usually cover design and editing can be done in tandem. Learn more about the seven steps to self-publish a book.
What might hold you up?
- Unexpected revisions to your manuscript can delay the timeline. Get an editorial evaluation before you start editing so that you know what shape your manuscript is in before you start production. An additional rewrite or extensive editing can add weeks to your timeline.
- Disappearing contractors. The annals of self-publishing are full of designers and editors that disappear into the ether; a full-service company will have a backup so that your timeline will not be impacted should an editor or designer become ill or otherwise indisposed. If you must contract with a new designer or editor, know that likely, the new person will need to start over again. Be prepared to pay extra for emergencies.
- Unacceptable work. Never hire a designer or editor whose references cannot be validated or who have few or bad online reviews. And never move forward with substandard work; poor cover and interior design can directly impact your book sales, costing you even more money. As stated above, a new professional designer will need to start over, so please give them the time required to do the job properly.
- Rounds and rounds of revisions. If you have hired a reputable designer with professional training, years of experience and great references, please listen to them! Not listening and insisting on unending tweaks to the design can add weeks and dollars to your timeline and budget.
As always, start with a plan, do your research, and understand what you are getting yourself into. Creating a clear set of goals for your book will help you choose the service providers to prepare your book for publishing. Build a realistic amount of time into your plan for reviews and approvals, and have an honest discussion ahead of time with your service providers about the timeline. Understand the costs—both monetary and time—of hiring a full-service company, individual contractors or doing the book design yourself, and adjust accordingly.